Splash Hits: How prospects stack up in 2023 rankings
Two weeks from now, that unmistakable click-clack will be back at Scottsdale Stadium, signaling the beginning of baseball's eight-month marathon. Giants pitchers and catchers hold their first workout Feb. 16.
Expected to be among the group of non-roster players invited to major-league camp: 21-year-old Kyle Harrison, the club's top prospect whom many consider to possess the most electric left arm in the minor leagues and is on track to debut this season.
While the Giants are one of the few team yet to release their full list of non-roster invitees, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said this week on KNBR to expect a number of homegrown prospects in big-league camp.
“We're gonna see a handful of those guys in major league camp,” Zaidi said. “It's sort of a sign of the maturity of our system that, I think in terms of our non-roster list, rather than having a bunch of minor-league free agents, we're going to have a lot of our own players coming in.”
It's a different tone that Zaidi took after the trade deadline, when the club effectively didn't have the firepower in its farm system to swing a trade for Juan Soto or another impact player. But it's spring (or soon to be), the annual season for optimism.
It's also the season of prospect rankings.
Baseball America, MLB.com and The Athletic all recently released their preseason Top 100 lists. There seemed to be an industry consensus on the Giants' system. All three outlets mentioned two names — Harrison and Marco Luciano — and nobody else, fewest in the NL
West, below even the Padres (three), who did pull off the deadline blockbluster.
Harrison (B-A: No 38, MLB.com: No. 18, The Athletic: No. 12) and Luciano (B-A: No. 37, MLB.com: No. 22, The Athletic: No. 21) remain very highly regarded, but tough seasons for Luis Matos and Heliot Ramos hurt them in evaluators' eyes, and the Giants' shiniest silver linings from last season aren't quite yet on the national radar.
That's reflected in Baseball America's organizational Top 10, which places two of last year's breakout prospects — slick-fielding third baseman Casey Schmitt and speedy outfielder Grant McCray — ahead of Matos. Another outfielder, Vaun Brown, No. 6 on the list, also turned heads last season and is likely to receive an invite to big-league camp.
Baseball America's Top 10 Giants prospects:
Marco Luciano, SS
Kyle Harrison, LHP
Casey Schmitt, 3B
Grant McCray, OF
Luis Matos, OF
Vaun Brown, OF Aeverson Arteaga, SS
Carson Whisenhunt, LHP
Mason Black, RHP
Eric Silva, RHP
Of this group, Harrison and Schmitt may be most likely to make an impact in 2023.
“Once you hit Double-A to start a season, you have every chance to make it to the big leagues at some point,” Zaidi said. “I think we're going to start seeing some of those names as this season progresses.”
MINOR-LEAGUE SIGNING >> The Giants did announce one non-roster invitee this week.
They signed right-hander Joe Ross to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, the club announced Monday. Ross, 29, spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals, going 2628 with a 4.28 ERA in 98 games (76 starts). He posted a 4.17 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) last season, with the best strikeout rate of his career (9.1 K/9).
A graduate of Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, Ross is the younger brother of fellow big-league pitcher Tyson Ross, whom the Giants also had in camp as a non-roster invitee in 2020. A former firstround pick, Ross was sent to Washington in the threeway trade that brought Wil Myers to San Diego and eventually earned a World Series ring in 2019, starting Game 5 of that series. He joins a stable of starters that already numbers seven, not counting Harrison, who is expected to debut this season.
ZIPS PROJECTIONS >> Projection systems didn't like the Giants in 2021, and they proved them wrong.
Projection systems didn't like the Giants in 2022, and they proved them right.
This season, one respected system … actually kind of likes the Giants?
“The Giants are a good team,” writes Dan Szymborski, the creator of ZiPS, whose 2023 prognostications for the Giants were published at FanGraphs last week. “There's a real solidity to the roster; no one on the infield has an impressive projection, but they have a lot of those guys on hand. … They have depth at nearly every position should injuries strike. But they don't have a Judge or Correa as the centerpiece of their roster. Right now, that's the difference between them and their NL West rivals in San Diego and Los Angeles.”
Some interesting tidbits:
• As expected, ZiPS projects Logan Webb as their most valuable player, at 3.7 wins above replacement, and best pitcher, with a 3.35 ERA. “It feels like a Cy Young-esque season is lurking just beneath the surface,” writes Szymborski, “and he still has excellent breakout odds in the projections.” ZiPS runs thousands of simulations. What would a season in the upper 80th percentile of outcomes look like? A 2.85 ERA and 4.8 WAR (which would almost match Carlos Rodón's 2022).
• While Mike Yastrzemski is projected as their most valuable position player (2.7 WAR), ZiPS loves David Villar, projecting him to be the Giants' next-best position player (2.3 WAR) and tie Yastrzemski for the team lead in home runs (20). Five positions players are projected to be worth 2.0 WAR, the standard threshold for an everyday player — Yastrzemski, Villar, Brandon Crawford (2.3), Thairo Estrada (2.1) and Wilmer Flores (2.0) — but another eight project for between 1.3 and 1.9 WAR (none is Joey Bart, who is projected for only 0.9).
• How about those prospects we were talking about earlier? Kyle Harrison's projected ERA is 3.99, equal to Sam Long's and better than Sean Manaea's, while his projected 10.6 K/9 would be the best of any starter in the rotation. Despite a single game of Double-A action, ZiPS believes Vaun Brown could be a 1.0-WAR player and league-average hitter by OPS+ … but with 141 strikeouts in 379 at-bats. It likes Casey Schmitt's bat less and, curiously, doesn't give him a boost for his glove. In the bullpen, Cole Waites and R.J. Dabovich, two young fireballers, also earned favorable projections for their potential strikeout ability.
MAILBAG! >> With spring training just around the corner, Giants beat writer Evan Webeck is opening up his mailbag. What pressing questions do you have after a wacky offseason? Email email@example.com, or tweet at @EvanWebeck, and your question could be answered next week in a pre-camp mailbag.
FAN FEST >> One last thing before the bags are packed and the trucks are sent on their way to Scottsdale: fan fest.
Set for this Saturday — doors open at 10 a.m. — the Giants released an extensive list of players and staff members expected to be on hand. It includes five of their six free-agent signings (only Ross Stripling is absent), as well as fan favorites Logan Webb, Brandon Crawford and Joc Pederson, and new general manager Pete Putila.
The full list of attendees, subject to change: Scott Alexander, Larry Baer, Alex Cobb, Michael Conforto, Kai Correa, Crawford, J.D. Davis, Thairo Estrada, Luis Gonzalez, Mitch Haniger, Luke Jackson, Gabe Kapler, Sean Manaea, Jon Miller, Alyssa Nakken, Pederson, Putila, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Rogers, Austin Slater, Taira Uematsu, Justin Viele, David Villar, LaMonte Wade Jr., Webb and Mike Yastrzemski.
Fans are encouraged to arrive by 9:15 a.m. for an “orange carpet” ceremony at Willie Mays Plaza.
Single-game tickets also go on sale in conjunction with the event, Saturday at 8 a.m.